Businesses all over the world are using Instagram to improve their bottom lines – a figure that makes sense when you consider that 80% of people follow a business on the platform.
But, there are a lot of businesses that have yet to take advantage of what Instagram has to offer.
If your business belongs to this group, you’ll be happy to know that achieving great results with Instagram isn’t as complicated as you might think.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at 7 ways businesses to succeed with Instagram as a business.
We’ll take a look at some of the precise strategies you can take advantage of, in addition to some of the higher level concepts you’ll want to keep in mind.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding as to how Instagram can help your business reach more people and generate more revenue in the process.
1. Focus on creating high-quality content
First and foremost, you absolutely must need to focus on creating high quality content.
Nobody is going to want to take an interest in your Instagram account if the content being posted, isn’t any good.
If you don’t have much experience with Instagram (even as a non business user) – you may want to change that and use the platform as a normal user.
When you use Instagram as a normal user, you’ll be able to better appreciate how the platform works.
Plus, by experiencing how other companies are using Instagram, you’ll be able to develop a better sense of what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to businesses using Instagram.
So… If you haven’t done so already, set up an Instagram account. Be sure to follow a bunch of companies that are active on the platform too.
Screenshot any images that catch your attention.
You can then use them as a reference when creating your own content.
With that out of the way, let’s take a the different kinds of content you can post on the platform.
One content style that works well, is ‘behind the scenes’ content.
This is content designed to show the process that goes into producing, whatever it is that you’re selling.
Here’s an example from Rolls Royce.
This kind of content works well on two levels.
For one, it shows that the company in question,really cares about quality and doing things in the best way possible.
For the most part, people want the best.
If you can show them that your brand believes in producing the best – people will want to buy into your brand.
Showcasing a behind the scenes look, also gives you the chance to make your company more ‘human.’ You can show people that you’re not just running a bland, faceless company.
By showing that the company is a team of people, of whom care about the people they’re providing goods/services to, people will feel as though they’re making the right choice when buying into your brand. .
Another type of ‘business’ content that works well on Instagram is ‘product photos.’
Product photos are just that, photos that you’ve taken of your product.
Note: When talking about product, we’re really just talking about the thing that you’re selling. A burger is as much a product, as is a shoe or SAAS solution, for instance.
Here’s a great example from the Raymond Weil, Instagram page.
If your product has any defining characteristics, you can show them off in these photos.
Now, the caveat here, is that you need to take high quality photos.
Taking high quality photos doesn’t need to be hard, and for most people, you can do a really good job just using your phone.
One of the biggest factors that can impact that quality of your photos, is lighting.
You’ll want to make use of natural lighting as much as possible.
If you can’t use natural lighting, then consider using of a lamp.
When it comes to how you should be taking photos, keep in mind the earlier point we made, in terms of studying other Instagram business accounts.
When you’re just getting started, other accounts will teach you a lot about the kinds of styles that you can use for your photos and how you should go about formatting them.
You can then use what you learn when creating content for your own Instagram account.
As you begin to develop more experience with Instagram, you’ll eventually get to the point where you develop your own sense of style (something we’ll touch on later).
Instagram Stories, are a relatively new feature within Instagram. This feature allows for you to share video and image content, in a slideshow format. The video content is generally less than 30 seconds.
Content shared via an Instagram Story will disappear within 24 hours.
Using Instagram stories, you can combine the different kinds of content that we’ve covered thus far.
Because it only lasts for 24 hours, the content you use for Instagram stories doesn’t need to be as polished as what you might otherwise post to your Instagram feed.
Plus, if your Instagram Stories have an informal feel to them, there’s a good chance that engagement will be higher, since people will feel as though they’re experiencing something ‘real.’
The added benefit here, is that if you’re really struggling to find the time to create high quality content for your feed, Stories can help you keep your followers interested, during ‘downtimes’ in your content output.
2. Engage your audience
When using Instagram, or any platform for that matter (be it your blog or Facebook) it’s important that you take the time to engage with your audience.
The easiest way to engage with your audience, is by responding to any comments that people might leave on your feed.
As simple ‘thanks’ can go a long way, in terms of showing commenters that you appreciate their input.
You might find that people are asking you questions via your comments.
It is important that you respond to these quickly as by doing so, you improve the reputation of your business, of which can lead to sales.
You may even find that some people are going to leave complaints, within the comments of your profile.
When people leave complaints, it is especially important that you are quick to respond. A fast response can help someone feel as though you take their concerns seriously and that you value customer service.
Of course, when responding to such comments, try and avoid having a discussion within the comments section. Rather, direct them to reach out (or vice versa) via ‘Direct Message’ so that you can solve the issue in private.
If you want to improve the levels of engagement on your profile, consider asking people to leave a comment, within the caption of your post.
3. Appreciate the importance of maintaining a consistent brand
You might think that we’ve covered the importance of branding, when discussing the need for high quality content.
However, the issue of branding, relates to more than just the ‘quality’ of your content.
Branding, relates to every aspect of your Instagram account.
The style of your images, the captions you use, how often you post content and so on and so on. By presenting a consistent ‘image’ it will be easier for your business stand out on Instagram.
If you can come up with a unique way of presenting your content, and then you’re consistent with that style, it becomes easier to generate brand awareness, if your content is shared.
The Oreo Instagram account is a good example of how you can showcase a consistent branding style.
A unique brand, of which is portrayed consistently, will also help you develop an Instagram profile for your business, that will be naturally appealing to your target audience.
This increases the odds that people will follow your account, should they across your content because they’ll identify with your brand. This thereby improves your reach and ability to generate a return from your Instagram efforts.
4. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a big trend at the moment and Instagram makes it easy for businesses to take advantage.
In simple terms, an influencer marketing campaign revolves around you find other Instagram accounts that are willing to accept a payment, in exchange for promoting your brand.
When done properly, Influencer marketing can lead to impressive ROI figures that would be hard to obtain with other forms of marketing.
However, it can take some experimentation to get Influencer marketing to work. So you should accept that you’ll probably lose some money on your initial Influencer marketing campaigns.
You should treat those losses as the cost of your education, as you can use what you learn from your initial campaigns, to create future campaigns that will have an increased chance of success.
In any case, there are some things that you can do, though, to improve the odds of your Influencer campaigns succeeding, even if you’re new to all of this.
The first, is to make sure that you’re only reaching out to people, of whom share an audience that will find your promotional efforts relevant.
Whilst you can use a ‘middleman’ to help find influencers, a lot of influencers prefer brands reaching out to them directly, as shown below –
If your brand isn’t deemed relevant, the followers of the account in question aren’t going to engage with your marketing efforts as much as you’d like them to.
And so whilst you, you might get some results, your ROI will be nothing like what you’d experience if the audience found your marketing was relevant.
Something to keep in mind, is that when running influencer marketing campaigns, you don’t have to rely on finding accounts that are within the same niche as you.
Remember – it’s all about finding people who share an audience that will find your promotional efforts relevant, right?
So, suppose you sell ‘running shoes.’
The obvious strategy here, would be to approach accounts that are dedicated to running.
However, since relevance is your guiding principle’ you don’t have to just reach out to profiles that relate to running.
You can contact accounts that are dedicated to weight loss, nutrition and other aspects of health and fitness, since these accounts arguably have followers that’ll be interested in running too.
The key thing is that you’re creative.
With the Influencer marketing landscape becoming increasingly competitive, you’ll need to figure out how you can adjust your approach, so that you can find undervalued opportunities, that will drive great results.
If you want to find Influencer marketing opportunities, you can use the Instagram search option.
To begin with, just type in a keyword that relates to whatever it is that you’re trying to promote.
For the purpose of this example, I’m using ‘running.’
As soon as I do that, I’m presented with a whole host of accounts that relate to this topic.
All I need to do now, is review each of the accounts that have been returned, in order to find some that look like they’ll be a good match for what I’m trying to do.
What signifies if an account is going to be worth approaching?
There are two things you’ll want to check out –
- The number of followers they have
- The level of engagement their content is achieving
When it comes to followers, try to find accounts with at least 50,000.
If the account doesn’t have enough followers, you likely won’t be able to drive the ROI you’re after. However, remember that for the most part, engagement can be a better indicator of success than follower count.
When it comes to Influencer marketing, high levels of engagement can often signify trust. If there’s a lot of trust, followers will be more inclined to take action on any recommendations made to them.
Ideal engagement levels can be tricky to quantify.
For the most part, you’ll just want to check that the content that’s being posted to the account is receiving plenty of comments and that these comments are meaningful.
You’ll also want to check out if the content is achieving plenty of ‘likes’ too.
If you’d like a benchmark figure, in terms of engagement, take a look at other accounts in the niche and you should be able to see what figures are ideal.
When approaching Influencer accounts, be respectful of any rules that they might have.
These accounts don’t want to tarnish their relationship with their audience and so they’ll often tell what they do and don’t allow in terms of a promotional approach.
Sticking to their guidelines is often in your best interest, since you’ll want the promotion to seem genuine, as this will often lead to the best levels of engagement.
Plus if you don’t – they likely won't’ allow you to market on their profile.
Pricing can also be a little bit complicated.
Because influencer marketing can drive a great ROI, you shouldn’t be afraid to spend a decent sum.
What you’ll want to keep in mind, though, is that a lot of these Instagram accounts aren’t making any money from their accounts.
And so you can get a lot of them on board by offering between $100-300, per promotional post.
The average for an Instagram Sponsored Post, is $300.
Of course, the bigger the account is, the more that they’ll want to charge you and, the chart below, shows how cost can also depend on the niche you’re going after too.
If Instagram accounts have a lot of other marketers reaching out to them, they’ll then charge you more as a result.
Throwing out a ballpark figure in the range suggested above, though, can be a great way to see what they expect, preventing you from spending a figure that’s going to lead to a negative ROI.
5. Instagram Ads
There are over 1 million businesses advertising on Instagram – and for good reason.
When executed properly, Instagram advertising can drive incredible results.
This is especially because of the fact that the platform gives you the chance to take advantage of the precise targeting features that come with standard Facebook Ad campaigns.
Setting up an Instagram Ad Campaign is entire blog post, in and of itself.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t cover some of the key aspects you’ll want to pay attention to.
When running an Instagram Ad campaign, you’ll want to be clear about what your goals are ahead of time.
Broadly speaking, with the help of Instagram ads, you can achieve the following goals –
- Brand awareness
Ads that generate brand awareness, tend to be fundamentally different to ads that are going to generate sales.
The images used in such ads may be based on showcasing things other than the products/services you sell. They may showcase a behind the scenes image, for instance.
When people click on brand awareness ads, they might be taken your Instagram profile, so that they can follow your account and receive updates when you post future content.
Ads that are designed to generate sales, however, are often more direct.
The images used for such ads may showcase a specific product. The description used could allow for it’s price and benefits to be shown.
When people click on such an ad, they’ll be taken to the product page for example, wherein they can decide to make a purchase.
The kind of ad campaign you decide to run, is going to depend on what you’re looking to achieve.
Sure, a brand awareness campaign can help you increase the number of people who are aware of your company, and therefore likely to buy from you.
But achieving that kind of scenario takes time and the results aren’t always immediately observable.
If you’re looking to generate a quick return from your ads, then of course a ‘sales’ focused ad campaign will probably be the better choice for you.
No matter what your goals are, the two biggest factors that will determine your success with Instagram Advertising are –
- The ad creative
- The ad targeting
The creative is essentially the ‘thing’ that people see, when they see your advert – aka the ad itself.
A lot of the time you’ll be able to get great results, by sticking to some of the principles we covered earlier when it comes to creating high quality content.
For instance, here’s an example of an ad, that showcases a product image.
If you have a software solution, you can still show off your product. Here’s an example of how you can do that.
Developing a compelling creative isn’t always easy, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get things right the first time around.
Because of this, it helps to study what everyone else is doing.
You then emulate (but don’t copy/steal) what catches your attention.
You’ll get the best results with this when you question the principles behind the ads that caught your eye. You can then use what you learn to create future campaigns that are based on solid reasoning.
Because Instagram Advertising can be difficult, you’ll want to use some split testing with your campaigns.
This is where you create 4 to 5 variations of the same ad, but you change either the image, the description or the audience you’re targeting.
For most people, it’s best to split test the image above all else, since this is likely to have the biggest impact on someone’s willingness to click on an Instagram Ad, as the platform is so visual.
If you want to get your ad targeting spot on, you really need to know who your audience is.
To begin with, it helps to list down 3-4 interests that your audience has. You’ll also need note down the location of your target market and the best age range to focus on.
As with the creative, you’re free to adjust your audience targeting, once your campaign has been running for a while and you’ve been able to observe what is and isn’t working.
Let’s take a brief look at how you can setup a campaign.
If you want to set up an Instagram Ad campaign, you can do so by visiting https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager/creation/.
You should then see this screen.
Select an ‘objective’ that best matches your needs.
Keep in mind, that for Instagram, you can use only these ‘objectives’ –
For this post, we’ll focus on the ‘Traffic’ objective, since this will apply to most people.
In the next section, you’ll need to input ‘Targeting’ information.
In this post, we’re going to suppose we’re creating a campaign designed to sell running shoes, so that’s why I’ve chosen the campaign settings shown below.
Make sure you deselect all other placements, apart from the Instagram Placement. If you’re not planning on using any ‘Instagram Story Ads,’ deselect that placement too.
Select a bidding option that works best for you. You’ll want to spend at least $10 a day, to get a good sense of how Instagram Ads work.
In the next section, you get to tinker with the specifics of your ad. First, though, you need to make sure that you have a Facebook Page that will be ‘linked’ to this ad.
You’ll then too also pick an image for the ad, keeping in mind some of the principles we covered earlier.
When you scroll down, you’ll be able to adjust the ‘copy’ for the ad. You can also adjust the ‘Call To Action’ here.
Be sure to select the ‘Instagram feed’ option when editing your ad, so that you can see what it will actually look like, within Instagram.
Also, if you haven’t done so, set the ‘Destination’ to ‘Website URL.’
Then click on ‘Confirm’ to review your ad and then let Facebook review it.
As soon as they’ve checked that it’s okay, it will start running.
At that point, you just need to keep an eye on the results being returned so that you can figure out if you need to put more money behind the campaign or bring it to halt.
Contests are another way that businesses can really succeed with Instagram.
They’ll help you improve the levels of engagement, whilst also giving you the chance to reward your followers.
There are multiple kinds of contests that you can run, though for most businesses the best kind is the ‘giveaway.’
This is where you offer to give something away, as though it were a prize for a certain action.
So you might ask someone to caption a photo, and then you can reward the best caption.
Or you might ask people to upload a photo of them using your product, and then the person with the best photo receives the prize.
If executed properly, contests like this have the ability to be widely shared.
The exposure you’re able to achieve as a result of a giveaway, often massively outweighs the the price of the item you’re giving away.
Especially if you compare it to what you’d otherwise be able to achieve using a paid ad campaign.
7. Automate posting
Businesses achieve the best results with Instagram when they post often and in a consistent manner.
The problem, though, is that it can take a lot of time out of your day to maintain a rigorous posting regime – time you might need to spend on other aspects of your business.
To overcome this issue, you can make use of existing solutions that will automate the content posting process for you.
Just preload these solutions with your desired content, say once a week, and they’ll be able to take care of your Instagram posting schedule as you focus on other things.
Whilst there are many solutions to choose from, Buffer is perhaps one of the best to go with.
One of the great things about Buffer, is that it can provide you with some analytics, in terms of how your content is performing.
These analytics are helpful, because you can use what you learn to optimize your campaigns in the future.
Say you want to improve the amount your content is being shared.
You can just review existing pieces of content that have achieved a lot of shares and then review what it was about those pieces that made them unique.
You can then use what you learn, to create future content that will have an increased chance of being shared.
Whilst you might be new to the idea of using Instagram as a means of promoting your business, after reading this post you should now have a good sense of how you can get started.
It’s okay if you struggle to begin with, as that’s expected.
Once you begin to implement some of the ideas that we’ve covered in this post, you’ll begin to develop a great sense of what does and doesn’t work for your business, when it comes to Instagram.
Whatever approach you, adopt make sure that you choose something today.
The sooner that you choose to use Instagram for you business, the sooner it will be that you’re able to generate an ROI from your efforts.